Shortly after 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, July 9, the S.C. House gave final approval to a Senate bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from its place in front of the State House and retire it to the Confederate Relic Room.
The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of heritage, states’ rights, and remembrance of the brave South Carolina brothers who fought side-by-side against an overreaching federal government. The flag is also a symbol for hate, oppression, and a reminder to some of the darkest hours in our country. Both representations of the flag are correct in their own right, as the flag is little more than a symbolistic piece of cloth.
Removal of the Confederate battle flag in no way eradicates our state history, any more than continuing to fly the flag influences an individual’s beliefs. However, the debate for or against the flag is not about protecting states’ rights, expressing Southern pride, or symbolizing racism. The role of the state legislature is to set the best public policy for future generations of South Carolinians and those looking to relocate, making South Carolina their home.
Our State House grounds are occupied with many memorials to the Confederacy, monuments honoring those South Carolina brothers, black and white, who fought for their state, and leaders of the state’s movement to succession. Our history will not be remembered in a piece of cloth on the State House grounds, but the stories and relics handed down from generation-to-generation.
The families of the “Charleston Nine” made a bold statement by offering their olive branch to the individual who brutally murdered their fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters in the name of hate alone. In return, the families and victims deserve an olive branch from their state by removing the battle flag from the State House grounds.
For those who view the flag as a sacred symbol of heritage and tradition, they should be allowed to freely express their beliefs by flying the Confederate battle flag at their house. But the people’s house, the State House, should be reserved to unite all people of South Carolina in one accord.
The members of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation who made the difficult decision to remove the flag, Sen. Larry Martin, Sen. Thomas Alexander, Rep. Gary Clary, and Rep. Neal Collins, should be commended for taking a stand important for the people of South Carolina. Rep. Joshua Putnam should also be credited for his hard work, respectful debate, and for voting his conscience on a difficult issue.
“Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” — George Washington, Farewell Address 1796.